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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Quagga Muscles are Coming!

This is an article by the L.A. Times regarding the quagga muscle. Very interesting and its on its way to northern California, to the delta, and neighboring waterways. There has to be something to treat these things. From what Ive read it sounds like its not just the west that is having a problem with them.

From the Los Angeles Times:

An invasive mussel first detected in California less than a year ago has surged across the state’s southern counties, stirring concern that its spread will inflict costly damage to public water systems and fisheries statewide.

The infamous fresh-water quagga mussel, which has wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes, multiplies so quickly and prolifically that it forms large masses that can clog water pumps, pipelines, power plant intakes and farm irrigation lines. Its rapid-fire invasion this year from Lake Mead — which straddles the border between Arizona and Nevada — southwest to San Diego is alarming water officials in a semi-arid region that heavily depends on imported water moved through a vast network of pipelines and canals. The quagga already has infested the 242-mile-long California Aqueduct, five San Diego County reservoirs and two of the three largest reservoirs in Riverside County operated by the Metropolitan Water District, which supplies Los Angeles with most of its water.

The mussel’s microscopic larvae can swiftly and invisibly move through waterways and the pest is typically found only after it has implanted itself. There is no known method to eradicate the thumbnail sized mussel, but at least one agency is attempting chlorination in the hopes of killing larvae.

Although the quagga does not make water unsafe to drink, officials are concerned that it could infiltrate the State Water Project that delivers water from Northern California to Southern California as well as expansive irrigation systems that feed the state’s agricultural industry. “All of that is subject to disruption by quagga,” said Edwin D. Grosholz, an expert on invasive mussels and Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Davis. “There’s nothing at all to limit their spread north to Northern California.”

Why are water officials so concerned?

The quagga and zebra mussels have caused an estimated $100 million a year in damages in the eastern United States and Canada, according to a May state report. Mussels can grow in densities of up to 750,000 per square meter in layers more than a foot thick, the report said.

The quagga can alter the underwater food chain, weakening fish and other aquatic species and settling on clams so densely that the clams starve. It can eat so much microscopic plant growth, or phytoplankton, that water turns clear, allowing sunlight to quicken the growth of bottom algae. That algae can cause taste and odor problems in drinking water supplies.

It can also create other problems. The FitzPatrick nuclear plant in upstate New York on Lake Ontario was forced to shut down three times this fall because of clogged filters blamed on mussel-generated algae.

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